The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site


When people, predominately non-sailors, find out that John and I live on our sailboat and cross oceans (well, one ocean—seems we just can’t shake ourselves loose from the North Atlantic), the thing they most often ask is, “Aren’t you afraid out there?”

I usually dive into a long-winded treatise on how we only go sailing at the appropriate time of year, we watch the weather closely, we have a good seaworthy boat, etc. Though all of that is true and the risk we face is minimal (compared to commuting on a busy highway, at least), it doesn’t change the fact that yes, I am often afraid; usually about what could potentially happen rather than about what is actually happening, though very occasionally I’m scared about that too!

I have just finished reading High Endeavours: The Extraordinary Life and Adventures of Miles & Beryl Smeeton written by Miles Clark, Miles Smeeton’s godson. In 1955, when they were both in their fifties, having never sailed before, Miles and Beryl set out in their sailboat Tzu Hang, traveling over 130,000 miles during the next 15 years. During those years they made three attempts on Cape Horn, getting pitchpoled the first time, rolled over the second time, and finally making it around on their third attempt.

I really enjoyed the book—it’s well written in a loving but candid manner—but what really interested me is that, after the pitchpoling that almost killed them, Miles and Beryl kept going. If it had been me, once I got safely back to land, I’d have put an oar over my shoulder and walked inland until someone asked me what I was carrying! Yes, they were tough and adventurous but, when it came down to it, they kept going despite being afraid, not because they weren’t afraid.

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